The Rheumatoid Patient Foundation (RPF) has designated Groundhog's Day, February 2, as the annual Rheumatoid Awareness Day, to give recognition to people with what it refers to as "rheumatoid diseases." The Foundation hopes that better awareness of these disorders will reduce problems in attaining disability accommodations, clinical care, healthcare reimbursement and research funding.
A press release about the new observance points to the frequent confusion between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis. As one RA patient wrote on an Internet forum: "RA should be named something else. When you mention to someone that you have RA they usually retort with something like, 'yeah, my joints really bother me when it rains,' or 'I hear ya, there's days that my hips hurt like crazy.' Now, I'm not putting those people down, it's just that everyone can identify with arthritis, and when RA is mentioned they only hear the A and not the R."
The concurrence of Rheumatoid Awareness Day with Groundhog Day is intentional. The six weeks between the appearance of the groundhog's shadow and the onset of spring is comparable to the short window of opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment of people with diseases such as RA, observes RPF Founder Kelly Young.
Rheumatoid Awareness Day also comes at the start of Heart Disease Awareness month, notes the Foundation, underscoring the higher incidence of cardiovascular conditions among rheumatoid arthritis patients.
RPF was founded in 2011 "to address significant lack of disease education, comparatively low levels of research funding, and difficulty obtaining adequate treatment." Its advisory board includes several nationally prominent rheumatologists.